Sunday, December 16, 2012

“Tonight Heaven is too crowded…”

For certain this quote from the television series “West Wing” is applicable to the emotions I find myself encountering.  The seeming cultural deviancy we are experiencing in this country where people find it acceptable to illegally walk into schools and murder whoever is in sight has proven most perplexing.  Outrage and thoughts of vengeance circle my head and bring me to a point of anger that is extremely disconcerting.  Children?!?!?  What in the name of all that is holy or, unholy, can there be a justifiable reason for murdering a child that you do not know?  The children in this latest massacre were ELEMENTARY students?  What could they have done to merit the taking of their lives?

What about the teachers and school staff, some of which charged into the hail of fire in order to protect their students?  More than one gave their lives in order to protect the lives of their kids.  This fact hit me the hardest.  I am a former school teacher who misses the great gift I received each day I taught the wonderful kids that came into my classroom.  They were “my kids” in that I came to a place where I felt towards them with great affection and ownership.  I had been given the phenomenal gift of using the skills and abilities that my God had bestowed on me to affect a child’s life, and cherished and continue to relish in the memories of life in “Mr. Reilly’s class.”  Specific memories have been written of in previous posts on this blog.  Look for them if you will, I have the memories and they make me smile even as we speak.

I found myself in an ever increasing emotional state over the last thirty-six to forty-eight hours, and need to ask, even though I know better - God?  Why did this happen?  I have always struggled with the negative side of life where it relates to my beliefs in a Higher Power.  For years I wrote things such as what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary off in my mind almost as soon as I heard about them, primarily because I had come to a place where this kind of news reporting had become so common.   My feelings today are somehow different.  I find myself in a place of shame for the apathy, and guilt for maintaining that apathy for as long as I have. 

I think about the brave principal who charged the crazed gunman using her body as a shield to protect her kids. I think of the principal who took a chance on me and gave me a classroom to run.  I can see her doing the same thing.  I now find myself in fear of this type of abomination occurring in the school where I taught.
When is this crap going to stop?  When are we, as a species, going to wake up to the realities of modern living?  We allow these incidents to occur and have no realistic idea of how to prevent them from reoccurring.  What about that kid you meet that is a little less sociable then the other in the class?  What is in their head?  Are they going to grow up to do these types of things?

When I say that we allow this sort of atrocity it comes from a decided anger over the way we treat those who are mentally disturbed.  There are people everywhere like this Adam Lanza fellow.  Only, it is against the law to intervene in the life of another person until…they actually do something.  This mentality goes along with a general dissatisfaction I hold with those “Inalienable Rights” our founding fathers set down and have grown to be obsolete in the face of the sort of atrocities that are feasible under the protection of these “rights.”  

The right to bear arms was, at least in my mind, never meant to be a done deal and inviolate when speaking of effective policing of situations like what happened in Newton, Connecticut. I have cause to discuss this area quite often.  My premise is that citizens should be able to own guns, but the guns they own should be restricted.  John Q Public has no need to own a machine gun.  When I speak to my friends I ask them when the last time they were in enough danger to warrant the use of a gun.  Everyone consistently answered in the negative.  

I can easily see the necessity of rapid fire weapons.  Human beings wage war.  We are engaged in one as you read.   The men and women fighting that war need to have weapons that have the ability to fire rapidly and accurately at an opponent who is intent of taking the lives of the enemy.  John Q. who lives in an apartment complex and works at the local Wal-Mart has no business owning a semi or automatic weapon.  Police agencies consistently suggest that the best weapon for home protection is a shotgun…not an AK-47 or an AR-15.

Recently I went to a friend house that lives in the country outside the medium sized city where I live. While there he decided to show off his latest acquisition.  A fully automatic Israeli UZI.  He strutted around like a proud peacock and talked everyone, (except his wife) into going out to shoot this weapon.  Five of us went out and proceeded to light up the side of one of his barns that was in the process of demolition to make way for a newer version of building.  Everyone had a go and there must have been a thousand dollars of spent shell casings lying about on the ground.  Most were expelled with one pull of the trigger.  Everyone laughed at the fact that the targets (a silhouette of a man and one of a woman) had escaped unscathed.  None of my friends had ever served a day in the Armed Forces.  They turned to me and with less than one extended sixty round clip I shot out the head and heart regions of each target completely out of existence. Jaws dropped.
I am no sniper or a real life version of Jason Bourne if that is what you think I am inferring.  I am simply a guy who at the tender age of eighteen raised his right hand, took an oath, and was informed that I would most likely serve the better part of my enlistment in Vietnam.  I found it to be of some importance to listen and learn well when it came time to use and maintain various weapons of war.  When I was released from active duty I decided that those skills were best left on the firing range back at Fort Dix.  I never fired a weapon at another human being while serving in the military.  I did have some bullets fired at me during training.  I have no desire to shoot at anyone, or be shot at.  I do keep a shotgun in my house because I have had occasion to listen to gunfire in my neighborhood while I was watching television. 

 Today’s world is, or at least can be, a dangerous place.  Being prepared for a home invasion is a reality in this day and age.  However, defending that home with a weapon that can shot 800 to 1200 rounds per minute is ridiculous.  If one hits the burglar with a shot and he/she collapses, the sheer force and rapidity of the common combat weapon would make an untrained person shoot up whatever room they are in into oblivion.  Grandma’s pictures and wedding pictures come to mind lying on the floor amidst broken frames and glass while the room is pockmarked with bullet holes that will take a professional Drywall contractor and painter to repair(for thousands of dollars at best).  Additionally, what if one of the rounds goes through the wall and ends up in somebody next door whose chief crime is that they chose to live next to an ignorant maniac.  Then there is the statistical reality of this happening to consider.  Feeling safe is just as much accomplished with a shotgun or a pistol.

The astounding reality is that we, as a species, indeed do allow these things to happen by the manner in which we live inside the news media.  The fact that these stories always drive up ratings and garner corporate sponsors for news media companies serves as nothing more than blatant encouragement for this kind of behavior.  Disturbed or deranged killers strive for the recognition they receive by their acts. So what is the answer?  This is what Morgan Freeman the famous actor has to say about it –
“You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news."

Amen, Brother!  I find myself long in verbiage and do not know what else to say.  The old saying bandied about by the gun lobbies and companies on how “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” sounds weaker and weaker as more massacres transpire.  Perhaps another great writer (☺) might have something to say about massacres…

"It is so short and jumbled and jangled, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like "Poo-tee-weet?"

"I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee. I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that." – Kurt Vonnegut